$100m boost as China’s ‘olive ball’ goes pro

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SHANGHAI: China will get its first professional rugby union competition as part of a $100 million investment in the currently low-profile sport by e-commerce giant Alibaba, the firm and World Rugby said Wednesday. As well as professional men’s and women’s 15-a-side leagues, a national sevens program will be set up, the two said in separate statements. The money will be spent over 10 years. But rugby has heavy handicaps to overcome in the world’s most populous country. Fewer than 80,000 Chinese play the sport and it is far less popular among spectators than football or basketball. Its Chinese name translates literally as “English-style olive ball.” World Rugby, the sport’s international governing body, would not specify the size of the league, or when it would start.

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AFP

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